RICHMOND — Del. Wendell Walker, R-Lynchburg, has pulled his bill calling for the removal of the statue of former governor and U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd from Capitol Square.
The Democrat-controlled House Rules Committee voted unanimously Friday to no longer consider H B 1305. Walker admitted to filing the bill as a political stunt.
Gov. Ralph Northam is supporting legislation allowing local governments to remove Confederate monuments. Walker put in the bill to challenge Northam. If Northam wanted to take down Confederate monuments, then perhaps he should take down a statue of a well-known Democrat with a notorious reputation, Walker suggested.
Byrd is considered the architect of Massive Resistance, a set of policies that aggressively pushed back against racial integration of public schools following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.
Numerous Democratic legislators indicated they would have voted for Walker’s bill. Walker didn’t actually want Byrd’s statue — or any other statue — taken down.
So Walker requested that it be removed from consideration last week, but the Rules Committee delayed that action for a week in order to draw attention to the bill and Walker’s political game.
House repeals driver’s license suspension law
The House of Delegates passed a bill that would permanently repeal a state law that suspends the Virginia driver’s licenses of anyone who doesn’t promptly pay court fines or costs unrelated to driving offenses.
The House passed HB 1196 from Del. Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington, on a bipartisan vote of 71-27. The companion bill from Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, passed the Senate earlier this week.
Suspending driver’s licenses is used to encourage people to pay their court fines and fees. But supporters of ending the practice point out the challenging cycle that people get caught up in if they lose their license because they can’t pay a court debt.
Stanley has been championing the issue for years, carrying the bill for the third time this year. In the past, his bill passed the Senate, but it would die in a subcommittee of the Republican-controlled House Courts of Justice — a well-known bill-killer with tough-on-crime lawmakers serving as members.
Monument removal bill moves to House
The House Counties, Cities and Towns backed a bill creating a framework for local governments to remove war monuments, including ones to the Confederacy.
The Democrat-controlled committee voted 12-10 to send HB 1537 from Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, to the House floor.
The proposal gives localities the authority to take down monuments. The Senate companion bill has had a delayed floor vote. The full House and Senate have to vote by Tuesday on any bills they want to get to the other chamber.
State law limits local governments’ power to remove or modify war memorials. The proposed legislation lays out a process for local governments to follow when they want to remove a monument, such as opportunities for a museum or another entity to request to take the monument.
“For some of us, every time we see a Confederate monument or statue, it reminds us of the worst time in the lives of African American people,” McQuinn said.